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CU holds over 20 commencement ceremonies for 2020-21 grads

By Joan C. McKinney

Campbellsville, KY - "Be kind." That was the advice Christi Thomas McGuire, a 1997 alumna who played basketball for Campbellsville University's Coach Donna Wise, gave to Campbellsville University's Department of Human Performance graduates that applied to all the university's graduates.

There were 1,717 graduates for May and August 2021 for the 2020-21 academic year; and 2,327 for May and August 2020 for the 2019-20 academic year.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbellsville University's held 17 different live ceremonies in much smaller settings in the Ransdell Chapel on the main campus. The Conover Education Center at Harrodsburg had a ceremony for its first graduates, and one will be at the Los Angeles Education Center May 14 and another will be on the main campus Aug. 6.

The ceremonies were for the 2019-20 graduates who missed their ceremony due to COVID and for the 2020-21 graduates. There was also a virtual commencement video for all the 2020-21 graduates, making a total of 21 commencement ceremonies.

Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president of Campbellsville University, told the graduates, virtually, "Today is not about pomp and circumstances, it's not about caps and gowns, it's not about speakers and music.

"Today is about each of you, the graduate, that within your discipline and surrounded by your fellow students and faculty, this is your milestone."

He told the graduates that everyone was there to celebrate their victory and their triumph. "I pray God's blessing on each of you today and always as you open this new chapter in your lives."

In a live ceremony, Spears presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Rebekah Mobley, a 2020 graduate, for the student award, and Jane Wheatley for the community member Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Mobley, of Elizabethtown, Ky., received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (pre-dentistry) and a minor in Marriage and Family Ministry.

Wheatley is chief executive officer for Taylor Regional Hospital in Campbellsville, Ky. and is a 1995 graduate of Campbellsville College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Administration.

Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, participated in all 17 ceremonies on the main campus as well as the virtual ceremony.

She read the names of the graduates in the majority of the ceremonies, and she told the graduates, "It's been difficult to not hug or shake hands; we all miss 'touch,' that connection to one another that goes beyond the virtual classroom or technology. I look forward to hugging everyone soon! But do know that this is a 'labor of love' from CU."

She said she had enjoyed each of the 17 official ceremonies in a different, meaningful way. "There is no other place I want to be right now than right here with you."

On Friday, April 30, her birthday, she officiated over three ceremonies including the School of Education during which the students, faculty, staff and guests, sang a surprise "Happy birthday," along with piano music by Dr. Rickey Casey, associate dean/professor of business and director of the Ph.D. program.

"It is important for me as your provost to create special moments to celebrate such an important achievement as graduating with an associate, baccalaureate, master's or doctorate degree," she said.

"You deserve this time, and I am honored to be here with you today."

She said it was important to celebrate safely, and the university wanted to figure out the best way to celebrate the graduate. "Since Sunday afternoon, we have celebrated graduates in groups as small as one and as large as 60, and each moment was equally as meaningful.

"The individual schools and departments have planned each program with great thought and energy. The work and dedication of our faculty and staff to make these moments happen is a testament to their love and dedication to our students. CU truly is a special place!" she said.

The faculty and staff also praised Hedgepath's diligence during the ceremonies.

Spears said the academic year concludes Campbellsville University's 115th academic year of Christian higher education.

He said the 2020-21 year culminates a year of struggle matched with determination, "but you have persevered; you have overcome."

He urged the graduates to "Take time, today, to express your love and appreciation to those who have sacrificed along the way to help you reach this important milestone in your life."

Spears charged the graduates to "be a good emissary for Campbellsville University. Carry its mantle well."

He urged them to look at the seal of the university that features fellowship, leadership and scholarship and fortifies all of us. He discussed fellowship, for harmony and respect for others; leadership, to take others to a higher destiny; and scholarship, to be committed to lifelong learning and expand your knowledge to share with others.

He also told them to do "something unexpected - climb a mountain, drive a race car, jump out of an airplane (with parachute), take a mission trip to Uzbekistan. Do something that signifies that you can take on this world and make your mark."

Evelyn Madill, a senior from Wilmore, Ky., who received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, responded to Spears' charge. She said, "In a world where plans change, finances fluctuate, relationships come and go, and, frankly, stuff happens, completing a college degree is no small feat, and we managed to do it in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

"Choosing to do it at Campbellsville was an intentional choice for everyone here, and the elements of the seal are present in all of us, demonstrated by the accomplishment for which we are here today.

"As far as doing something unexpected, I for one can say with certainty that everything I've done in the past year has been unexpected, since no one ever expected an epidemic of this magnitude to put our lives on hold for this long.

"I can additionally say, however, that our lives as students have not been put on hold, which is also demonstrated by our presence here at this commencement ceremony. We have adapted and learned alongside the rest of the world, and I can't wait to see what else we accomplish."

McGuire, UK Network Radio/TV Host, who urged the students to "be kind" in the first commencement ceremony of the 17, has been in broadcasting for several years including being a part of the UK Sports Network for the last 20 years. She was one of several speakers at the 17 ceremonies.

McGuire is the pregame radio host of "Countdown to Kickoff" for UK Football and is the first and only female to host a network pregame football radio show in the SEC.

McGuire co-hosts "BBN Gameday," a weekly TV show on the UK Network and is also the on-field PA announcer at UK home football games. In addition, she works for the SEC Network as a color analyst for UK Women's basketball.

She graduated cum laude from Campbellsville University in 1997 with a dual degree in business administration and communications. In 1997 she received the Robin Roberts WBCA Sports Communications Scholarship at the NCAA Women's Final Four.

McGuire said, "In this day and age of all things technology, some of our human interaction has gone completely off the grid."

She urged the graduates to smile and acknowledge people, be helpful, be empathetic and be sincere. She said, "You all know what you want to do. You're going to go make money and make a name for yourselves in your line of work, but at the end of the day, is the money, accolades, awards, job titles going to be your legacy? It will ultimately be how you made people feel."

She said, "Best of luck to the Class of 2021! Go make us proud and just be nice!"

Another graduate, Laura Beth Hayes, who received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration, her third degree from Campbellsville, addressed the education students and urged them to "remember to never forget."

She urged them to "never forget the 'small things' that are the very foundation and core of our professional field."

She described a "small thing" as a simple hello to a child who survived another night in a horrific home environment, a pep talk to a special education student who is embarrassed that he still can't read in the fifth grade or a smile shared in passing to a colleague who is tired after a frustrating year of pivoting, relearning and recreating. "Small is what matters," she said.

Garrett Stark, who was assistant coach for the men's and women's soccer teams and head coach of the Mercer County Senior High School boys' soccer team, was honored posthumously with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences. He died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident Feb. 9, 2021.

Shirley Strader Lawson was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her grandson, Shaun Lawson, accepted it in her honor as she lives in Virginia Beach, Va. with her husband, Paul, who is also a Campbellsville graduate.

Lawson received her associates degree from Campbellsville Junior College in 1954, and went on to Georgetown College, but she never finished her bachelor's - until the presentation of her degree today.

Lawson, a native of Campbellsville, Ky., established an Endowed Music Scholarship at Campbellsville University for church music students in 2000. She has also been named a CU Distinguished Alumni.

The couple has been faithful members of Campbellsville University President's Club for the last 22 years. In addition, they are also Big Maroon Club Members and a Member of Campbellsville University's Covenant Society.

Various individuals, including deans and students, spoke at each commencement. Dr. Tony Cunha, dean of the School of Music, told the music and art and design graduates, "Time is everything. We have a finite amount, and when it is gone, it is gone!"

He quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that begins with "For everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven."

Cunha said, "Life is not only full of contrasts but also a combination of contrasting seasons. The author of Ecclesiastes is calling our attention to have discernment over what we can and cannot control. It is not only a matter of having or not the time to do things."

He asked the graduates if they had issues with time while they were a student, for example, not having time to get a paper done.

"Perhaps you got caught into the burden of the proper time trap and forget to dream. Unfortunately, so often, we are too busy to dream.

"Dream small. Dream big. Do not quit dreaming. Don't sit on your dreams!" he said.

"Today is a beautiful day. It's YOUR day. May God bless you as you begin a new journey with many dreams."

Dr. Pat Cowherd, dean of the School of Business, Economics and Technology, said, "Graduation day is a very important day. It is often on par with your wedding day and the birth of your first child.

"It is not only when good things come to an end, but when a new exciting chapter begins in your life.

"Graduates, don't forget to thank your parents, your grandparents, your spouse, your friends, your teachers... the people who helped you get this far... thank them for their prayers, their financial support, their leadership, their friendship, and their endurance to see you through this process."

Cowherd said, "No matter what path you take after graduation, we wish you much success. Hopefully, you will take a part of us with you. You definitely will leave a part of you behind with us."

Co-valedictorians of the May 2021 ceremony, with their degrees listed, were: Sara Elizabeth Caffee of Center, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Biology; Megan Marie Duvall of Leitchfield, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an accounting emphasis; Logan Michael Hall of Elizabethtown, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministries;

Noah Elias Henkel of Germany, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a management emphasis; Ashton Meredith Leet of Louisville, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education/Primary-5; Evelyn Grace Madill of Wilmore, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Psychology; Jonathan Nelson McClendon of Somerset, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting and Natalie Christian Shadrick of Paducah, Ky., Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Spanish.

Co-salutatorians of the May 2021 class, with their degrees listed, were: Samuel Allen Fagerness of Chehalis, Wash., Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Physical Education P-12 and Kasaundra Margaret Givans of Brandenburg, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education/Primary-5.

Co-valedictorians of the December 2020 class were Claire Elizabeth Edwards of Benton, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Business Administration Area/Accounting emphasis; Sydney Taylor Harris of Campbellsville, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Educational Ministries Area; Carson Kathleen Kovalic of Winchester, Ky., Bachelor of Science with Criminal Justice Administration and Political Science majors; and Beverly Paige Thomas of Springfield, Ky., Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Business Administration Area/Human Resource Management emphasis. Skylar Maria Lanham of Philpot, Ky., was salutatorian for December 2020 and earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree with an area in Social Work.

Ashley Fox, director of alumni relations, welcomed the graduates to the Campbellsville University alumni family, at the ceremonies.

"You will always be a part of this community," she said. "Campbellsville University is in your story and your experiences. Be proud of your accomplishments and continue to be servant leaders in this world."

She urged them to stay connected to their alma mater.

Spears conferred their degrees upon completion of the requirements for their degrees.

This story was posted on 2021-05-05 10:24:51
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Christi Thomas McGuire speaks at CU Commencement

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Ariel C. Emberton.
Christi Thomas McGuire, UK Network Radio/TV host, speaks at the first commencement ceremony for the Department of Human Performance, held in Campbellsville University's Ransdell Chapel.

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Jane Wheatley receives Sullivan Award

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Ariel C. Emberton. Jane Wheatley, center, receives the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for a community member during a commencement ceremony April 29. From left are, Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Wheatley; and Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president.
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Logan Hall, CU 2021 Co-Valedictorian

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Ariel C. Emberton.
Logan Hall, center, who receives his undergraduate degree, is recognized as co-valedictorian for the 2021 class and speaks at the School of Theology commencement ceremony April 30. He was presented his degree by his grandfather, Dr. Donnie Gosser, member of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees. From left are, Gosser, Hall and Anna Gosser, his grandmother.

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Cohen, Amanda and Greyson

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Chosalin Morales.
Amanda Thurman holds her nephews, from left, Cohen Brothers and Greyson Brady, after the School of Theology commencement ceremony where she received her master's degree.

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Department of Human Performance commencement

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Chosalin Morales.
From left, Rafael Cruz, Jason Camacho, Jose Cerame, Noel Camello, Jeremy Hernandez and Andres Laboy take a group picture following the Department of Human Performance commencement ceremony April 25, 2021.

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School of Music/Art and Design commencement

2021-05-05 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Alexandria D. Swanger.
Madison Bishop's graduation cap reads "My degree runs on Dunkin." Bishop graduated during the School of Music/Art and Design commencement ceremony April 27, 2021.

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